A neo-Nazi leader has been charged by federal authorities with plotting to attack the Maryland power grid along with a woman he met in prison. Sarah Clendaniel, 34, and Brandon Russell, 27, each face one count of conspiracy to destroy an energy facility, according to prosecutors. They face a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted.
According to federal authorities, Mr. Russell and Ms. Clendaniel wanted to shoot up five substations that supply electricity to the Baltimore area.
From at least June 2022 to the present, Mr Russell planned to target critical infrastructure, particularly substations, “to further Russell’s racially or ethnically driven violent extremist ideas”.
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Mr. Russell is a founding member of the neo-Nazi organization Atomwaffen Division, whose members have been linked to murders and terror plots by law enforcement and federal prosecutors. The criminal charges were unsealed on Monday. His first court date was set for Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Florida, where he lives.
Ms. Clendaniel, who lives in Maryland, appeared Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, according to authorities.
Erek came. Barron, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said the targeted attack “threatened lives and will leave thousands of Marylanders in the cold and in the dark.” “We are united and committed to combating violence, especially hate-motivated attacks, using all available legal means.”
The charges come amid heightened security around power plants following two separate vandalism incidents in late 2022 that left thousands without power in North Carolina and Washington state.
Vandalism has long been a threat to the US power grid. 17 transformers that supplied electricity to Silicon Valley were destroyed by a sniper in California in 2013.
Officials claimed Mr Russell published links to open-source infrastructure maps that showed the locations of electrical substations and explained how an attack on a few substations could lead to “cascading failures”.
According to the police, he and Ms. Clendaniel allegedly discussed attacking several substations together to increase the effect of the strike. According to authorities, the two have known each other since at least 2018, when they corresponded while at different institutions.
The criminal complaint alleges that Ms. Clendaniel attempted to obtain a weapon and identified five Maryland substations as her targets.
According to the criminal complaint, Mrs. Clendaniel claimed that if the stations were attacked on the same day, it would “totally destroy this town” and that “four or five rounds should go right through the center of them…”
According to the complaint, Ms. Clendaniel was speaking with a federal informant who was discussing matters related to Mr. Russell.
Court records say he added, “If we can pull off what I’m hoping for…it will be legendary,” in late January.
According to the complaint, Mr. Russell was a member of the Atomwaffen Division until May 2017, when he lived in Tampa, Florida. Authorities discovered neo-Nazi memorabilia, a photo of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, hexamethylene triperoxide diamine (HMTD) and other explosive devices that belonged to Mr. Russell, according to the criminal complaint.
Mr. Russell admitted to the authorities that he was a Nazi supporter, that he founded the Atomwaffen, a local National Socialist organization joined by his roommates, and that he created the HMTD.
In 2018, he was sentenced to 60 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to possessing an unregistered destructive device and improperly storing explosive materials, according to authorities.
Authorities claimed Ms. Clendaniel had previously been arrested for an armed robbery. No legal advice was immediately available for Ms. Clendaniel and Mr. Russell.
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